Southampton Parish is home to one of Bermuda’s favorite beaches. While the beach itself is beloved by all, the on-site amenities and services really make this one perfect for an all-day outing. If you’re looking for a less-crowded beach, Southampton has that too, as well as a picture-perfect picnic beach and an excellent spot for snorkeling.
The most-photographed beach in Bermuda, Horseshoe Bay (South Shore National Park off South Rd., opposite the junction with Horseshoe Rd.) is equally popular among locals and visitors, its various moods appealing to a diverse range of beach-lovers. Arguably Bermuda’s number-one tourist attraction, it welcomes shiploads of tourists daily during the summer cruise season; often they are taxied here the moment their vessel makes port. As a result, weekday afternoons May-October see the half-moon-shaped bay packed with bodies soaking up the soft sand, balmy water, and picturesque surroundings. Flotillas of cabs descend to ferry them back to Hamilton’s docks around 4:30pm every day.
Staffed by lifeguards May-October, the beach itself is alluring, but its on-site services allow for a full day’s outing. A concession at the entrance sells towels, beach mats, sunblock, sarongs, souvenirs, and flip-flops. Rentals beginning at 9:30am include lounge chairs ($10), umbrellas ($10), rafts ($12), and body boards ($8.50). A bonus of Horseshoe Bay is the café, where waterlogged beach bums can slake their thirst and heat with sodas and ice cream, as well as fast-food meals. Alcoholic beverages are served at an outdoor concession stand. Baby-changing facilities, showers, spacious sky-lit bathrooms, and outdoor showers and faucets for washing sandy feet before the ride home are also provided.
Locals head to Horseshoe Bay year-round at dawn on Saturday mornings to swim, run, and walk, enjoying the serenity of the beach and its dune trails before the day’s later crowds. Horseshoe is a favorite hangout of Bermudian teens and twentysomethings on Saturday afternoons, when night owls nurse their hangovers with pizza, cheeseburgers, and eyefuls of beach-trotting fashionistas.
Families with young children also choose Horseshoe for its cliff-sheltered ends, which offer shade and wading pools. Horseshoe’s beach has less of a steep surfside drop-off than next-door Warwick Long Bay’s, lessening the undertow and allowing for wading farther out. There is also a kid-perfect adjoining cove, officially named Port Royal Cove but unofficially dubbed “the Baby Beach,” to the west of the main stretch. A turquoise swimming hole encircled by cliffs that keep its waters flat, this little gem is a big draw for parents and nannies with toddlers or infants. Eastward, a handful of tiny, sheltered coves dot the shoreline between Horseshoe and Chaplin Bay, offering utterly scenic, private retreats.
Rounding the last bend off South Shore Road as you head west, Church Bay’s clifftop park (South Rd., opposite the junction with Church Rd.) dazzles with views of divinely turquoise vistas that tempt passersby to make a pit stop. The park makes an incredibly scenic stop for a picnic, while the reef-protected bay below has long been considered the best snorkeling spot on the island. Moreover, the beach’s deep, pink sand and sheltered, sun-soaked nooks and crannies make it one of the island’s best-loved beaches.
A timber boardwalk and fence, erected after Hurricane Fabian’s damage in 2003, lead down to the beach. A concession stand on the beach rents swimming and snorkeling gear, chairs, and umbrellas during the summer. The shady park at the top has a convenient pull-in and parking lot. Portable toilets are also on-site.
West Whale Bay
Surprisingly under-visited by locals or crowds of tourists, West Whale Bay (at the end of Whale Bay Rd., off Middle Rd.) is one of the island’s best beaches, offering pristine pink sand, clear turquoise water, safe coves, and a sense of undisturbed privacy, as if it were a resort property rather than a public one. Follow Whale Bay Road to the end, where a quiet parking lot stands. A manicured lawn hemmed by whispering pines leads down to the beach under towering cliffs. Dramatic boulders, tumbled into the bay, separate the beach into a string of shady, private coves. Golfers can be seen down the distant shoreline, teeing off at the world-famous 18th green at Port Royal Golf Course. Portable toilets are located in the parking lot.